This was both odd and funny and annoying and just weird all at the same time! Courtesy of Visa Card and United Airlines. As with any post like this I do, it’s not so much just to whine about it personally as to simply demonstrate bad processes and procedures.

Visa’s Customer Losing Process

My wife is great about paying her bills. In fact, tonight she just noticed, “You know, I don’t recall getting my Visa bill recently for my Visa United Airlines Card.” So she goes online to check, and it is in fact 5 days late. The first time she would have paid it late after over TEN YEARS and tons of personal and business charges.  So she calls up Visa Card Customer Service to check to make sure there’s nothing wrong with our address on record and when they send their bills, explaining she didn’t get it. (Who knows. Maybe it got lost. And ok, maybe we even tossed it by accident. But that’s highly unlikely.)

The point is, there was a $39 late fee on a $56 bill. So she asks the Visa Card rep, “Can you waive the late fee this one time due to the fact that I didn’t get the bill.” The Customer Service lady says “No, the late fees are based on the post date.” To which my wife says, “Well, I can understand you have to have late fees and so on, but can you look at my TEN or more YEARS of perfect payment history and give me the benefit of the doubt on this one. Besides, $39 on a $56 bill is insane.” Answer, “No, I’m sorry ma’am.” I’m listening to this conversation on speaker and just thinking, “this is nuts.” The obvious next request from my wife is, “OK, I’ll pay this bill. Could you please cancel my card now?” The rep goes ahead and does that explaining when the last bill will come, etc. Zero attempt to keep a very long time customer. Asked whether it bothered her that they were losing a 10 year customer over this, the lady said, “There’s nothing I can do.” When asked if there was someone else to speak to, her answer was “No, there’s not.” Final Answer: Visa United Airlines Card: Cancelled.

Why They Don’t Care

It could be credit card companies don’t actually like me and my wife. We almost always pay off our full balance every month. So they don’t make as much interest off of us. Though, at the same time, we both often have business expenses and over the years have likely generated tons of revenue on merchant charges. We understand that due to recent Government laws for credit card companies that were supposed to protect consumers, they’re taking out their vengeance on consumers with new and bigger fees. What’s bizarre here is that this may bump their profits for a bit, but in the end they’re likely hurting themselves and maybe HELPING America. That is, if more people get annoyed and cancel some cards or use their cards less, that may be good for everyone. (This may be a foolish thing to assume, however. Both due to most people’s addiction to credit and – at least for now – some people’s real need to dip into any credit they have.)

United Airlines Gets Hit Too

And United Airlines takes a double or triple whammy on such things as well. Airlines make some money on points programs; selling points to credit card companies as incentives. And now that she’s not generating points for United anymore, she’s less likely to fly that airline at all. The third part of the whammy, (though it’s not much of one), is they get written about here as being part of one stupid customer service experience by virtue of their affinity credit card partner.

Anyway…

We both have top credit scores. If she wants to replace this card at all, it’s an utterly trivial thing to do. The big question is, “How stupid is a business to totally blow off a customer who’s generated a lot of business over 10+ years to get a $39 late fee?”

Visa. Dumb. Their current tagline is “More people go with Visa.” They may need to change it to “More people go FROM Visa.”

Follow Up and Final Resolution

So Visa sends a note confirming cancellation of the card. And another with a sort of 1/2 apology for the difficulty suggesting we call to try to work things out as they can reconsider the charge. So, we figure, “OK, sure, why not.” My wife calls them – on speaker so I can hear as I’m easily amused – where the rep says, “Sorry, we can only reconsider the charge if you re-open the account.” The next question to the rep was, “That’s very interesting Bob, can you perhaps explain why we would bother opening the account just to have something reconsidered? Why not just reconsider first as that’s the decision that will determine whether we keep the account. After all, you were the ones who sent us the “Let’s reconsider,” note.” Bob says basically there’s nothing they can do. At this point though, we do get to speak to a supervisor. Who, finally, says, “Yes, I don’t understand why you got the note either. We can take the charge off if you want to re-establish the account.”

So, finally, someone there is ready to do the right thing. At this point, we’ve found several alternatives. (It’s not like it’s hard to find good deals on credit cards with cash back or rewards points.) So we won’t re-open the account. But in fairness, I had to point out that Visa did try to do the right thing in the end. As is often the case though, you have to get through first line support that’s just going off the script. It obviously helps to be in the right in the first place or at least have been a long time customer in good standing.